Sulfur: It May Be Smelly, But This Anti-Acne Powerhouse Will Clear Your Skin



sulfur-collage When you get hit with a bad breakout (happens to the best of us, especially at that oh-so-special time of the month), your first thought is probably to reach for your go-to acne meds (if you're us, this is usually over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid).

Unfortunately, depending on skin sensitivity, these products can be too harsh, resulting in irritation and peeling. On the other hand, these products can be too weak for tougher acne, meaning you won't see much of a difference at all. Think you need an upgrade? Enter: sulfur (yes, the stuff that smells like rotten eggs). While it may not sound like the most glamorous of skin-care ingredients (we can't all be you, Miracle Broth), the recent growing popularity of sulfur as an anti-acne ingredient has been leading us to think that there's more to this compound than its unpleasant scent.

To get to the bottom of exactly why sulfur is becoming so beloved among the beauty set, we reached out to Peter Thomas Roth, himself, who says that the use of sulfur as skin care is not actually as trendy as we thought: "Sulfur is a naturally occurring non-metal mineral that is found mostly near hot springs and volcanic craters. People have been attracted to sulfur springs for centuries to soak in its therapeutic waters and experience its healing properties," he explains.

If you're wondering if a product containing sulfur would be right for your skin type, Roth stresses that the mineral is basically a one-stop shop for complexion perfection: "Acne-prone, oily skin that's suffering from breakouts would benefit from sulfur as a treatment. It is especially effective at drying up excess oil and exfoliating dead surface skin cells, plus it has antibacterial properties that help kill topical bacteria and prevent it from spreading, helping to clear up acne." Serious skin-clearing power from a natural mineral sounds like our kind of acne treatment (especially with scary stuff like this going on).

While there are many ways to enjoy sulfur's myriad benefits, Roth explains that sulfur is able to really work its magic on a major breakout when it's in a mask form: "A sulfur mask can help skin tone and texture by working to help exfoliate and unclog pores that may appear as blackheads. When those blackheads are cleared, your skin will appear brighter and smoother, with a more even tone." Roth used the maximum over-the-counter concentration of 10% sulfur in his new Therapeutic Sulfur Masque, combined with eucalyptus to make for a pleasant olfactory experience.

Speaking of the stink, Roth assures that the refined sulfur in his products won't knock you out. "New types of sulfur make products that smell better and have a longer shelf life, says Roth. "This makes sulfur products both efficacious and pleasant to use." Consider us convinced. Spa night, anyone?

Sundari Neem and Aloe Vera Tonic Water, $30, available at Soap.com; Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Acne Treatment Masque, $40, available at Sephora; bareMinerals Blemish Therapy, $18, available at Sephora; Proactiv Refining Mask, $20, available at Proactiv.